Laughter, splashing and happy chatter should be the only sounds you hear coming from your pool deck and, most likely, they are. But in today?s world of gangs, terrorists and school shootings, do aquatics facility operators need to be concerned about potential violence?
Because there are no statistics documenting violence at aquatics facilities, it?s difficult to say whether pool rage is on the rise; however, anecdotal evidence from summer 2008 suggests that operators need to be prepared for the possibility of such incidents.
In perhaps the most high-profile episode, former NFL football player Odell Thurman was arrested on assault charges after police said he broke the jaw of a fellow patron in a dispute at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio. At Water Country waterpark in Portsmouth, N.H., Joel Roy, 28, was asked to leave after he was caught riding a water slide while intoxicated. When he returned to the park after allegedly hopping a fence, he was arrested for criminal trespassing and assaulting a lifeguard. A teenager also was arrested for assaulting a lifeguard at Carver Park pool in Texas City, Texas.
Problems on a larger scale occurred in Los Angeles and Charleston, S.C. A group of up 30 men ganged up on staff at the 109th Street pool in south L.A., throwing the manager, a lifeguard and locker room attendant into the water, according to Los Angeles Times reports. Incidents in 2007 forced the city to station armed guards at the facility and install security cameras.
On Memorial Day weekend, operators at Whirlin? Waters Adventure Waterpark were forced to shut down early after an influx of unruly teens threatened to get out of hand. One security guard was on duty at the facility, located at Wannamaker County Park in North Charleston.
?[Whirlin? Waters] has been in existence more than 10 years, and we?ve never had problems,? said Tom O?Rourke, executive director of Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission. ?[With only one security guard on duty], we wouldn?t have been prepared if something happened, so we shut down proactively.? Since the May incident, three off-duty police officers have been posted at the park.
But beefed-up security might not be the answer for every aquatics facility.
?Operators need to consider local circumstances,? said Scott Runkle, aquatics/safety supervisor of the Skokie Park District in Skokie Ill., and president of the Aquatics Branch of the National Recreation and Parks Association. ?There are definitely places where there?s policy on ?what to do if you hear gunfire,? [but that?s not everywhere].?
It?s more likely that lifeguards will have to deal with people who may be belligerent or unruly, but not necessarily violent. According to Runkle, there?s definitely been an increase in this type of patron.
?There?s much of the ?I?m the customer, I?m always right? and ?You can?t talk to my kid that way? attitude,? Runkle reported.
Chris Brewster, president of the United States Lifesaving Association in San Diego, agreed: ?The bottom line is that operators are placing guards in an enforcement role [by the nature of the job], and some people are going to react negatively when advised of the rules.?